Planning any family vacation can make you never want to leave the house. Where, how much, how long, and with who — those are just some of the details to be hammered out, especially now that multigenerational travel (grandparents, parents, and kids) is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. Add in what you need to pack and who will enjoy what activities, and the last thing on your mind is probably how to do all of it sustainably. Never mind the fact that most family-friendly destinations — from theme parks to resorts — are hardly eco-friendly, as they generate tremendous amounts of plastic and waste. But don’t worry — before you shutter the clan in for another summertime staycation, it is possible to have a big family trip that’s both environmentally responsible and filled with cherished memories. Let’s dive into how you can plan and enjoy a sustainable family vacation this summer.
Choose a more sustainable destination
Selecting a sustainable destination is the first step toward an eco-friendly family vacation. Look for places that prioritize environmental conservation, support local communities, and promote sustainable tourism practices. National parks, eco-resorts, and destinations with green certifications are excellent options compared to mega resorts and cruises. Before you book, research the destination’s sustainability initiatives and any eco-tourism activities available to ensure your visit contributes positively to the local ecosystem.
Seek out eco-friendly accommodation
While drawing up sustainable family vacation ideas, seek out eco-friendly accommodations. Look for hotels or resorts with green certifications, such as LEED or Green Globe. While many smaller eco hotels may not yet have a green certification, it does help weed out greenwashing. Alternatively, consider renting a vacation home through Ecobnb or staying in sustainable lodges and campsites, or staying with friends and family. Eco hotels and vacation homes employ eco-friendly measures such as energy-efficient appliances, recycling/composting programs, sustainable landscaping, and other efforts. So, if you already have a destination in mind, search for eco-friendly or sustainable hotels, resorts, or rental properties in the area.
Pack light and green
Remember, every pound counts when you’re packing! More weight equals more fuel to get you where you’re going. So, choose lightweight clothing made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or linen. These fabrics are not only comfortable and breathable for a summer vacation but also kinder to our planet. Then, plan your outfits in advance to prevent overpacking.
We also recommend choosing eco-friendly toiletries, especially if you’ll be using them out in the elements. We’re talking about natural bug repellents and sustainable, reef-safe sunscreens free of harmful chemicals like oxybenzone. And don’t forget refillable water bottles for the whole family!
If you expect to be doing laundry during your trip, add a pack of SaltyLama laundry detergent sheets to your list. These pre-measured, liquid-free sheets give you superbly clean clothes without the bulk, hassle, and harmful chemicals of typical detergents. There’s even a small pack for up to 20 washes, perfect for getaways!
Consider the carbon footprint of transportation
Depending on where you live or where you’re traveling, choosing the eco-friendliest transportation can be one of the hardest parts of planning a sustainable vacation. Consider traveling by train or bus, as they have lower carbon emissions compared to flying. If flying is necessary, choose nonstop flights whenever possible and offset the carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits when purchasing your trip. Once at your destination, use public transportation, walk, or rent bikes to explore the area, reducing your reliance on private vehicles. If you’re driving to your destination, try to use the most fuel-efficient vehicle available and carpool.
Connect with nature
Embrace your family’s most adventurous side and soak up nature’s playground during your vacation together! Get creative and choose something everyone can enjoy, whether that’s a scenic hike to an idyllic outlook, birdwatching walks through the forest, or kayaking down a winding river. If your summer vacation involves traveling with little ones, it’s never too soon to introduce them to local flora and fauna and help foster a deep appreciation for the world around us. Visit nature reserves and local farms or walk along the beach to hunt for seashells or spot marine life.
If you want to take your sustainable vacation to the next level, you can investigate organized clean-ups — beach clean-ups are very popular during the summer months — or search for conservation programs in the area.
Support local communities
One of the most sustainable ways to have a positive impact while on vacation is to support local communities. So, skip the fast-food chains and dine at local restaurants that serve sustainably grown food. Shop at farmer’s markets and artisanal stores, or purchase souvenirs that are handmade by artisans in the area. By supporting the local economy, you give back to the community and help preserve cultural heritage — at the very least!
Reduce energy and water consumption
When we’re vacationing, we often become a bit careless with our consumption since we know we’re probably not fronting the electric and water bill. Nonetheless, the most responsible thing is to be conscious no matter where you are.
Turn off lights, unplug electronics when not in use, and adjust or turn off the AC to conserve energy. Take shorter showers and reuse towels to reduce water consumption. Keep the “Do not Disturb” sign on your hotel door to avoid unnecessary cleanings.
Keep responsible wildlife encounters in mind
If you encounter wildlife during your family trip, practice responsible and ethical behavior. This is a big one for a sustainable trip! It’s not just about your consumption and emissions but also about the life around you. So, observe animals from a safe distance and avoid disturbing their natural habitat. Do not feed or touch wild animals, as this can disrupt their natural behaviors and even pose risks to their health. Then, you can engage in activities that support wildlife conservation, such as visiting animal sanctuaries or participating in guided nature tours led by knowledgeable experts.
Offset your carbon emissions
Consider offsetting your vacation’s carbon footprint by investing in reputable carbon offset programs. These forward-thinking programs fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as renewable energy initiatives or reforestation efforts. You can calculate your carbon footprint using online calculators and support projects that align with your values and have a verified impact.
By adopting these sustainable practices, you’ll inspire your family to be mindful travelers and contribute to the preservation of our planet for future generations. Happy and sustainable travels!